Dispatches from the Crony State

From the Daily Beast

For some wealthy donors, it doesn’t matter who takes the White House in 2016—as long as the president’s name is Clinton or Bush.

More than 60 ultra-rich Americans have contributed to both Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s federal campaigns, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by Vocativ and The Daily Beast. Seventeen of those contributors have gone one step further and opened their wallets to fund both Bush’s and Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.

After all, why support just Hillary Clinton or just Jeb Bush when you can hedge your bets and donate to both? This seems to be the thinking of a group of powerful men and women—racetrack owners, bankers, media barons, chicken magnates, hedge funders (and their spouses). Some of them have net worths that can eclipse the GDPs of small countries.

Ideology, policy prescriptions, legislative plans -- nothing matters except influence.  This will always happen as long as we give politicians so much power.  Its why the Coke and Pepsi party look so similar today.   At least a few people are noticing:

Is there a single person alive who believes that corporations, trade associations, NGOs, unions, and the like pay the Clintons enormous sums for speeches because they believe their members actually want to hear the Clintons say the same tedious talking points they have been spewing for years? If that were the only value received no profit-minded enterprise would pay the Clintons these vast fees because they would earn, well, a shitty rate of return.

No, the Clintons are not paid to speak. Businesses and other interest groups pay them for the favor of access at a crucial moment or a thumb on the scale in the future, perhaps when it is time to renew the Ex-Im Bank or at a thousand other occasions when a nod might divert millions of dollars from average people in to the pockets of the crony capitalists. The speaking is just a ragged fig leaf, mostly to allow their allies in the media to say they “earned” the money for “speaking,” which is, after all, hard work.

We have such people as the Clintons (and the tens of thousands of smaller bore looters who have turned the counties around Washington, D.C. in to the richest in the country) because they and their ilk in both parties have transformed the federal government of the United States in to a vast favors factory, an invidious place that not only picks winners and losers and decides the economic fates of millions of people, but which has persuaded itself that this is all quite noble. Instead, the opposite is true: This entire class of people, of which the Clintons are a most ugly apotheosis, are destroying the country while claiming it is all in the “public service.” It is disgusting. We need to say that, at least, out loud. . . .

Tear down the aristocracy of pull. This may be our last chance.


  1. me:

    Land of the free... interesting question: how would you design a system to wield power that prevents it being taken over by those who seek power for it's own sake? Keep in mind that every known attempt at doing so has been a demonstrated failure.

  2. Joe:

    Term limits -

    Read Thomas' dissent in Thorton v Arkansas with the opinion by Stevens -
    Only one constitutional provision--the Times, Places and Manner Clause of Article I, ยง4--even arguably supports the majority's suggestion. It reads:

    "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators."

  3. morganovich:

    the only way to take crony capitalist influence out of government is to take influence away from government.

    so long as government can pick winners and losers, direct large monies, enable legal plunder, and steer markets, politicians will be bought and sold. the currency in which they are traded may vary, but the fact of their sale will not.

  4. morganovich:

    simple: you devolve power to the people by recognizing and defending inalienable natural rights and specifically limiting the role of government. we simply did not put enough safeguards into our system and in a time of crisis, we lost much of the basis of it to a demagogue (FDR).

    this does not mean the idea was bad, it simply means we did not execute it well enough.

  5. Not Sure:

    "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators." P. J. O'Rourke

  6. vikingvista:

    True. But since governments make their own rules, the only way to reduce the influence of big government is for masses of individuals to find ways of effectively ignoring it. There needs to be a culture of acceptance for ignoring legislation (where people are more motivated by what is right than what is legal). Then there need to be safe ways of acting accordingly (e.g. encrypted Internet commerce, local nonenforcement of Federal and state dictates, Charles Murray's legal defence fund idea, peaceful labor black markets).

    The idea that somehow the government can be fixed through its own political processes puts far too little weight on entrenched incentives. It just isn't reasonable to expect.

  7. NL7:

    I agree that there's lots of influence peddling here, but a meaningful proportion of it is not just the influence but other motives like signaling, status, or personal satisfaction. Sure, Hillary or Condi or whoever is more favorable to your interests and your relationship may be deepened by both the occasion and the payment - that's valuable and represents a serious departure from the notion of equal government or of technocracy.

    But beyond that, there are further dynamics. The act of getting a bigwig is a signal - a signal to donors, to other organizations, to your employees, to your board members, to friends and family - that this is an important organization with important and connected leaders. So even if the organization and its leaders never really want a favor, the signal of the bigwig showing up is a display of their value and status.

    Aside from using that status for personal satisfaction, or to woo better employees, better trustees, better donors, better event spaces, better celebrity endorsers, you can also use the bigwig's visit as status for your cause (if you have one) and elevate its relative importance in the media. So if your issue is prostitution or African development or cancer research or publicizing that your business conglomerate is really profitable, getting a bigwig publicizes and legitimizes your cause relative to others. If enough attention comes to a relatively new issue, then it can help a snowballing effect.

    And of course, the simplest rationale (other than bribery) is fandom. Lots of young reality stars, like Snookie or whoever, will get famous and then be a commodity to have at parties. These celebrities may be so famous that you can pay them to hang out with you at your party. The idea behind paying Snookie to attend your party can be the same as paying Hillary to attend your gala: you are a super-fan and you secretly hope it will turn into a lasting friendship even though you know that's unlikely. This is one reason that you see student groups saving up money to hear speeches from boring politicians like Hillary - they aren't expecting to call on her influence, but they might just like the idea of seeing her for super-fan reasons (or for the status reasons).

    Considering that this money is often not borne directly by the organizers and is also typically returned (to non-profits), the influence itself may in some cases be quite minor. Hillary, according to rumor, keeps her fees or donates them to the Clinton foundation, but many other speakers make a gesture of returning the fee to the same org (minus expenses), meaning that at most all the speaker gets is a party and the prestige.